You move your thumbs hundreds of times a day. This is possible thanks to a series of joints within the thumb, which allow it to move up and down, in and out, and rotate to touch other fingers.
One of the joints within the thumb is known as the carpometacarpal joint. Located at the juncture of the thumb and wrist, this small but mighty joint allows movement of the hand and wrist.
Without the proper function of this joint, numerous everyday tasks would be difficult – but carpometacarpal joint injuries are often overlooked. Read on to learn symptoms of carpometacarpal joint injuries as well as the causes, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment.
Carpometacarpal Joint Injury Causes
Carpometacarpal joint injuries are typically caused by one of two things.
Arthritis: Over time, wear and tear of the carpometacarpal joint can cause arthritis and joint deterioration. Osteoarthritis, in particular, can result from wear and tear at the joint, causing the cartilage to become rough. When this occurs, the bones don’t glide gently and moving your thumb may be difficult and painful. In some cases, the cartilage may wear away completely, causing bone-on-bone contact resulting in pain, swelling, limited range of motion, and a popping sensation.
Hyperextension: Aside from wear and tear, one of the most common causes of carpometacarpal joint injuries is a forced hyperextension of the first carpometacarpal joint (the base of the thumb).
Carpometacarpal Joint Injury Symptoms
The symptoms associated with carpometacarpal joint injuries are similar to those of arthritis, including:
- Pain, stiffness, and swelling at the base of the thumb
- Pain, stiffness, and swelling that occurs after gripping or pinching activities (ie: turning a doorknob, buttoning buttons, cutting vegetables, etc.)
- A bump that appears on the joint
Carpometacarpal Joint Injury Risk Factors
Anyone can suffer from a carpometacarpal joint injury, but certain risk factors may make you more susceptible:
- Age: Carpometacarpal joint injuries are more likely to occur if you are older.
- Gender: Women are more likely to sustain a carpometacarpal joint injury.
- Family History: If someone in your family has arthritis associated with a carpometacarpal joint injury, you may be more likely to get it.
- Playing Sports: Any activity that can cause the sudden hyperextension of the joints puts you at risk.
- Repetitive Movements: Repetitive movements contribute to wear and tear of the carpometacarpal joint and can lead to arthritis or injury.
How Is a Carpometacarpal Joint Injury Diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you have a carpometacarpal joint injury, they will first evaluate your symptoms. They will then conduct a physical exam of your hand while reviewing your daily activities, the history of your symptoms, as well as when the pain occurs.
Your doctor may also order X-rays to check the condition of your bones.
Carpometacarpal Joint Injury Treatment
Treat for carpometacarpal joint injuries depends on the severity of the injury, however treatment will fall into two categories: non-surgical and surgical.
Non-Surgical Treatment for a Carpometacarpal Joint Injury
If the injury is new (ie: arthritis symptoms are not yet severe) your thumb will likely respond well to non-surgical treatments. These treatments may include medication, cortisone injections, and splinting to keep the joint stable.
In more severe cases of a carpometacarpal joint injury, non-surgical treatments may not provide sufficient relief. If this is the case with your carpometacarpal joint injury, your doctor may discuss surgical treatment options. It’s important to remember that arthritis is a degenerative and progressive disease that may worsen over time in certain individuals. So while non-surgical treatments may work now, they may not be the right option in the future.
Surgical Treatment for a Carpometacarpal Joint Injury
For carpometacarpal joint injuries that require surgery, there are several options, such as CMC Arthroplasty and Spherical Implant Surgery.
CMC Arthroplasty is a common procedure that involves reconstructing the joint. CMC Arthroplasty is typically done as an outpatient procedure, but certain cases may require an overnight stay in the hospital.
In this procedure, doctors stabilize the metacarpal and use the patient’s own tendon tissue as a joint space. If this isn’t a viable option, the doctor may place a prosthetic implant between the ends of the bones that are making contact.
In Spherical Implant Surgery, a small ceramic ball is placed between the ends of the bones. This forms a new joint and allows the bones to glide smoothly.
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If carpometacarpal joint injury pain is making life difficult, let us help you. We’ll tailor a treatment plan that’s best for your lifestyle and get you back to doing the things you love.